A Case for Why Canadian Regulators Should Just Ignore the Obscene Lack of Women in Tech

Posted by Knowlton Thomas

A few things today, while still oft-reported on, are no longer news. Among them is the lack of women and diversity inside North American technology companies.

I can link to alarming statistics about how few women are represented in tech and the myriad barriers they face not just to join tech companies in tech capacities, but to climb those companies' ladders to salient positions. Or to recent reports from companies like Google, where pretty much every tech employee is a white male—offices only lightly sprinkled with some Asians and perhaps a few chicks.

But we've all read them. We all already know what's up.

When you're as of a minority as a woman is in a tech firm, you're almost a novelty, and you begin to wonder: was I hired because I am on the same level as these white males, or am I the token Asian/woman/black guy/cocker spaniel of this company? The answer to that question, it seems to me, is seldom clear.

Not helping this foggy situation are the people demanding regulation to see minimum numbers of women or minorities on boards of directors and in C-suites at large corporations. Ontario, for example, plans to force companies to report female representation on boards and senior management or explain why they aren't doing so; six other provinces are pondering following suit.

While well-intentioned, these folks are doing more harm than good. Do you really want to be the only woman on a board knowing that this board pretty much has to have a woman lest they face shareholder and regulator wrath? You'll never know, or be able to prove, that you earned that spot. This hurts your own pride, of course, but it also fails to command respect from your colleagues. In fact, they may even resent you for it ("I actually had to work for my spot."). It's cruel and it's unfair, but it's also human nature.

There's one simple reason why government should completely ignore the lack of women and diversity in tech: profit.

You see, study after study after study has shown over decades that diverse companies on average are more financially successful, short- and long-term, than those dominated by white males. Sure, Apple isn't terribly diverse and is the largest tech company in the world—but every rule has exceptions. For the most part, companies with well-represented minorities and a good portion of women—and even companies led by women, imagine that!—kick the asses of those stuck in the past.

Smart tech companies are quickly realizing this. Google, for example, is investing tens of millions of dollars in "Made with Code," a program that encourages females to become computer programmers. Similarly Facebok partnered with #YesWeCode, which has the goal of teaching coding skills to 100,000 underprivileged young people. These guys are banking long-term. Instead of putting a woman in a spot just to have a woman in a spot, they're looking to cultivate a generation of women who will take that spot with conviction, on their own accord, with their own talent, and lead a new wave of diverse companies.

Which brings us back to forgetting about all these stupid minimums and regulations. Because companies that don't invest in minorities will fall behind. And bleeding red on a balance sheet will light a fire under a coporation's ass much more rapidly, and with a much hotter flame, than any silly "comply or explain" rules. We don't need regulation for women; we need fostering. And tech companies are already doing this without any prodding from government. 

So now we wait.

And wait.

Because these kinds of things aren't fixed overnight. I mean, let's be honest, it's going to take decades, regardless of the approach. But having the kinks work themselves out will, in the long run, benefit both the companies and the minorities.

Leave it all open, I say, and let capitalism prove over time the incredible value of women in tech.

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Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton is the managing editor of Techvibes. Based in Vancouver, Knowlton has been published in national publications and has also appeared on television and radio. Previously he was an editor for New Westminster weekly The Other Press and served on its board of directors. When not working, Knowlton enjoys playing tennis, hiking, and exploring weird side streets. more




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